Dries Van Noten has always been a nomad, and if his past couple of collections have been rooted in a distinctly European locale (the French Riviera and the work of Francis Bacon, respectively), for S/S 2010 he took us on a trip way out to the Far East. Perhaps absence does make the heart grow fonder because, just as surely as Dries' endless love of hodge-podge pattern clashes began to grate on one's nerves a few seasons hence, this time they looked spectacular. That said, it isn't merely the fickle revival roundabout to be credited. Van Noten has matured and developed a great deal over the past year - his shapes this season proved that. They were slick, sharp, and even sexy - more global jet-set than Home Counties geography teacher. Indeed, the fabrics he used had glitterati written all over them, or rather woven into the sparkling, lurex and lame-threaded brocades, jacquards and damasks. These were fashioned into simplistic garments - straight up-and-down trenches, neat cardigan-jackets and square-cut pyjama pants - that nevertheless had a certain panache about their shape. The clash of fabric and theme was what gave them their freshness, with coats and jackets tumbling off shoulders and falling open to show layers of richness beneath. There were airs of Chinoiserie in a delicate jade-green damask bomber seemingly fashioned from Qing dynasty ceremonial robes, and of Indian Maharajas in the swagged brilliance of a gold-spattered paisley silk sari skirt. But each was brought firmly back to the here-and-now, teamed with khaki shorts or a neat grey jersey sweatshirt. Van Noten has always been adept at mixing patterns, and in any other hands the sheer quantity would have boggled the brain into total meltdown. What this collection proves is that he has joyfully mastered the art of restraint. These clothes weren't an eclectic, eccentric mix-and-match ethnic grab-bag. They were sleek, chic and eminently wearable by anyone, not just Trustafarian hippies trekking the well-worn silk-trail. An emerald-crusted bolero tossed over an ikat-silk column proved Van Noten's look has far-reaching international currency - and such bankable, effortless and enduring elegance is probably one of the safest investents around.
Van Noten has matured and developed a great deal over the past year - his shapes this season proved that.